- Messi has 700 goals - but Barcelona have even more problems16:38 | 01/07/2020
The Argentine reached another historic landmark on Wednesday but a 2-2 draw with Atletico Madrid all but ended his side’s Liga title hopes.
Photo by Getty/Goal
After celebrating his 700th career goal with his Barcelona team-mates, Lionel Messi turned back towards the cameras to the left of the Atletico Madrid goal, clicked his fingers and treated those watching at home to a cheeky little wink.
It should have been the defining image of the night. But it wasn’t. Not even close.
Barcelona may be reliant upon Messi’s genius but that is not what they’re about anymore. Barca are about chaos.
This is a crumbling institution, racked by divisions at every level of the club, and gripped by a financial crisis.
The lack of unity was wonderfully illustrated by a shot taken of the two sides during a first-half cooling break in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw at Camp Nou.
Barca’s players were all spread out across Quique Setien’s technical area, as if respecting social-distancing rules, while their Atletico counterparts were huddled attentively around coach Diego Simeone.
Meanwhile, Barcelona’s gross financial mismanagement was nearly summed up by the absurd sight of Antoine Griezmann, a player signed for €120 million (£107m/$134m) last summer, being introduced with two seconds of normal time remaining in a game that Barca had to win.
“It’s difficult to put him on without destabilising the team,” Setien explained afterwards.
He had a point too. Griezmann isn’t right for this Barca team. Setien clearly wouldn’t have signed him. Then again, nor would his predecessor, Ernesto Valverde. The Frenchman’s transfer never made any tactical or financial sense.
But that is Josep Maria Bartomeu’s Barcelona for you. There is no longer any thought given to where superstar signings might fit in. There is no clear, coherent strategy, on or off the field.
For all the talk of identity at Camp Nou, Barcelona no longer have one.
What is the game plan now? Other than hope Messi conjures up a bit of magic up front, and Marc-Andre ter Stegen bails them out at the back.
Against Atletico, Riqui Puig at least once again showed what can happen when Barca put their faith in La Masia – an academy that previously produced not only Messi but also Xavi and Andres Iniesta yet came to be overlooked by a succession of coaches.
The 20-year-old midfielder was once again one of the best players on the pitch for Barca, an effervescent presence who is as fearless as he is technically gifted.
But beyond that, there was once again little for Barca’s beleaguered fan base to take comfort in.
Some took to social media afterwards to lash out at VAR once again, after a couple of contentious calls, chief among them the decision to punish Ter Stegen for being inches off his line before saving Diego Costa’s first-half penalty.
In truth, though, they know that while it is title rivals Real Madrid who seem to be getting all the close calls lately, Barca only have themselves to blame for allowing the Blancos to displace them at the top of La Liga.
The Blaugrana have now drawn three of their past four games, against Sevilla, Celta and Atletico. Tough fixtures, admittedly, but games that a club that has spent as much money as Barca in recent years should be winning.
The supporters know that too.
Even the build-up to this game was overshadowed by a bitter backlash to the ridiculous decision to swap the flawed-but-promising 23-year-old midfielder Arthur for the declining 30-year-old Juventus playmaker Miralem Pjanic.
It’s just another bad deal for a club that now specialises in them. Indeed, that is what Barca are really about now: poor decision-making.
As was always likely, Setien will likely be made the scapegoat for the failings of others. He took over a team top of the league and Barca now trail Madrid having played a game more.
His game-management has been poor and it’s clear that he no longer has the full support of the players, if he ever did.
Of course, sacking Setien won’t solve all of Barca’s problems; they extend well beyond the dressing room and go all the way to the top of the club.
Bartomeu’s final term as president still has a year to run, though. The chaos at Camp Nou will only continue…
How Barca fans must wish Messi really could make it all better with a simple click of his fingers.
Source – Goal.com
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